What’s In a Blog Name?

September 29th, 2010

The name for this blog comes from the idea of  “the loving eye” vs. “the arrogant eye”.  I chose “soulful” because it imparts the notions of deep reflection tinged with sorrow; sorrow for where we are, reflection on how we got here and how we might chart a new path forward.  

Sallie McFague, defines the arrogant eye as gazing from within the framework of Subject-Object dualism, very similar to Buber’s “I-it” perspective.  In this article, she highlights 3 primary characteristics of this kind of dualism … 

First, in dualism the subject denies its dependency on the other, thus masters deny that they depend on slaves, men on women’s work, humans on nature’s finite limitations and the affluent North on the poor nations of the South. In point of fact, however, those in the “background” are essential to the foreground subjects, who could not exist without these unacknowledged others.

Second, the other is polarized through hyper-separation: while only a small difference may separate the two parties (skin colour or gender, for instance), radical exclusion is necessary in order to treat the other as an object. Differences are not seen as a matter of degree, but as absolutes: for example, that humans and chimpanzees are 98 percent the same genetically is an uncomfortable fact for dualistic thinking to deal with.

Third, the bottom side of the dualism is incorporated into the top side by being defined in terms of it: it is merely a “lack”. Its being is defined in terms of lacking what the top side has; thus, for instance, the poor are those who do not have money, women are defined as lacking male genitalia, and other life forms in nature are graded on a scale of their proximity to or distance from the ability to reason as humans do.

The result of this kind of thinking is 

instrumentalism (permission to use the other to serve one’s own purposes) and stereotyping (since the others are not subjects, but mere types, their particular needs and wishes need not be taken into consideration).

The arrogant eye is

acquisitive, seeing everything in relation to the self — as either “for me” or “against me”. It organizes the world in reference to itself and cannot imagine “the possibility that the Other is independent, indifferent”.  It simplifies in order to control, denying complexity, difference and mystery, since it cannot control what it does not understand. The arrogant eye is the colonial, imperialistic, patriarchal eye that simplifies and controls the other — poor people and nature become human resources or natural resources.

What’s the alternative and is it biblically conceived? 

From the point of view of Christian spirituality, such a life is not the abundant life; it neglects most of the world’s people and exists at the expense of the natural world. A spirituality built on it would be limited to loving other people in one’s own economic bracket. A Christian spirituality, however, must favour what is other and different, as well as those who are needy, including needy nature.  


Christianity should wage a major critique of the subject-object model that underlies the arrogant gaze of Western culture. It should do so because at the heart of its own spirituality lies a very different model, the subject-subjects one. 

 

We read in Genesis that God looked at creation and said, “It is good.” In fact, God says this seven times (whereas “subduing” nature and having “dominion” over it is mentioned just once). God’s response to creation appears to be, in the most profound sense, an aesthetic one: appreciation for something in and for itself, of the other as other. The message of Genesis is not domination but appreciation. British novelist Iris Murdoch has written: “Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real. Love… is the discovery of reality.” She is illustrating, I believe, God’s gaze on creation, the gaze of the loving, not the arrogant eye, the gaze of appreciation for the otherness, the subjecthood, of each and every bit of creation. Made in God’s image, our eyes should imitate God’s: we should look at the world the way God does, with a loving, not an arrogant eye. 

What is the “loving eye”? 

The loving eye, on the other hand, acknowledges complexity, mystery and difference. It recognizes boundaries between the self and the other, that the interests of other people (and the natural world) are not identical with one’s own, that knowing another takes time and attention. The loving eye is not the opposite of the arrogant eye: it does not substitute self-denial, romantic fusion and subservience for distance, objectification and exploitation. Rather, it suggests something novel in Western ways of knowing: acknowledgment of and respect for the other as subject. There is nothing sentimental or weak-minded about this: it is simply the refusal to assume that subjectivity is my sole prerogative as a Westerner or a man or a rich person or even a human being. To recall Murdoch’s statement, “Love… is the discovery of reality.” The loving eye is not the sentimental, mushy, soft eye; rather, it is the realistic, tough, no-nonsense “God’s eye”, that acknowledges what is so difficult for us to admit: that reality is made up of others. Love, then, is no big deal or a specific virtue reserved for religious people; it is simply facing facts, it is being “objective”. 

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